Sunday 12th July: Pentecost 6, with Congregational thoughts to the Reflection Questions

This service is based around Romans 8: 1-11 and Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23.

Our Rector, Rev Nick Wills leads the service (along with lots of different members of our church) and preaches:

Original Music Compositions by Neil Birse used with permission. Hymns sung by the Birse family and the St Peter’s Choir. Sound editing of the Anthem by Ian Gibson. CCL Licence 43554 St Peter’s Church

After the sermon on Sunday 12th July, the congregation were given four questions to consider. They were asked to send their thoughts to Christine Bethune, who then summarised them. (The Sermon starts at 11.34 on the link above)

Summary below of the congregational responses by Christine:

Nick preached on the Parable of the Sower in Matthew’s Gospel (13: 1 – 9, 18 – 23) and related this to the format of BBC2’s Dragons’ Den…
These questions seem to have been the most challenging set yet. Emerging from lockdown with more activities being possible has – totally understandably – distracted at least one of us! Nevertheless some personal stories were delivered that clearly required enormous courage to articulate.

1. What would be your Dragons’ Den idea to transform churches?
This was clearly a major hurdle! Several were completely stumped!

 “Dragons’ Den originality defeated me. I could only think of new applications of other ideas.”
 Having heard that so many have taken to the internet to explore their spirituality and connect with different churches, one writer tried to suggest an app or online resource to help people navigate their way towards a
church that would fit their needs and personality. They thought it might also help churchgoers to find out more about traditions they know by name but not by experience. Features might include:
* ‘Which church are you?’ quiz – ‘if you like that you’ll like this’ – FAQs – USPs
* Find and contact – map showing local churches and meeting/service times, weblinks
* Is it a church? Is it a cult? What to look out for!
But would that ‘transform the church’? This contributor concluded that in fact this would be unlikely (and a bit dull!), and smacked of superficiality, “although I do feel that there is much unnecessary ignorance regarding ‘other’ traditions”.

2. Have you ever felt as if all your efforts to share the Good News of Jesus have fallen on rocky soil?
Recalling conversations about the other questions brought up some truly difficult and uncomfortable memories.
 “One woman was quite desperate and I thought what I was saying was helping. When I paused she said that didn’t I see that it was all a deception. She wanted to talk again another time but kept putting it off.”
 “Early attempts to share with family were the wrong place to try. Caused more damage than good.”
 “I am not good at articulating the Good News! Decided eventually to just be myself and try to be honest about my beliefs and my doubts.”

3. Have there been times when you felt listened to, or that someone responded to God through you?
Hardly anyone felt that at the time – but they sometimes discovered (much later) that an encounter or conversation really had made a difference to the other person, who had gone away and thought about what was said, or
examined a particular attitude.
 “One conversation was with a man who had been through terrible experiences. All I did was listen and say something that had meant a lot to me that week from the Psalms. I was nearly crying. It meant a lot to him.”
 “I’m more likely to think that about someone else. – that what they said had an impact on me, or that God spoke to me through them. And I probably didn’t say that to them at the time!”

4. When have you seen unlikely fruit coming from an unpromising situation?
 “I had to apologise for something to a Muslim young woman. She went away without saying much. When she came back she was effusive in saying that we were both believers (she still Muslim) and she wanted to forgive me wholeheartedly because of that.”

 Lockdown! Churches have found many new participants in spiritual and practical initiatives. Volunteering to help their neighbours (a la Good Samaritan). Highlighting Covid threat in poorer nations and refugee camps,
war zones. The media have been sniping about ‘where was the church on the front line’, criticising the closure of buildings and looking from soundbites from the Archbishop of Canterbury, but have ignored – or are ignorant of – the concept of the church as the people/body of Christ. And that is what Covid-19 has brought alive.